From the center of the earth and deep-sea vents to plant roots and the human intestine, microorganisms occupy remarkably diverse niches on our planet. These microbes include bacteria, archaea, fungi, and protista, and are found attached to rocks and soil particles, corals, and ocean sponges. Bacteria, for example, symbiotically colonize plants and humans as well as fish and squid, resulting in mutual benefit to both microbe and host. Pathogenic and unwelcome bacteria can egress from their native niche and adhere to and infect other sites and host tissues, leading to cellular injury and disease. Microbes also adhere to the hulls of ships and to machinery in food-processing factories, resulting in contamination and adverse circumstances. Specific adhesion strategies have evolved in order to facilitate microbial attachment to diverse substrata in both symbiotic and pathogenic associations. Understanding the molecular mechanisms and functional implications of microbial adhesion is crucial for generating complete descriptions of our ecosystems, understanding and predicting ecosystem stability due to globalization and climate change, and attempting to control and prevent the unfortunate and often devastating consequences of infectious diseases. Thus, microbial adhesion is a fundamental component of the field of microbial ecology. This article will focus on the adhesive strategies employed specifically by bacteria, though many parallels can be found in the arsenal of adhesive strategies harbored by the other classes of microbes. We will highlight several exciting and up-to-date scientific discoveries as a platform to illustrate the biological significance and implications of microbial adhesion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Microbiology, Third Edition
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780123739445
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • adhesin
  • adhesion
  • biofilm
  • curli
  • extracellular matrix
  • fimbriae
  • host colonization
  • infectious disease
  • lectin
  • pili
  • symbiosis
  • virulence


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